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Academic misconduct - CS022310

A student was studying a taught postgraduate programme and had to take an open book exam for one module. After the exam, the provider told the student that it was investigating them for contract cheating. The student was suspected of uploading some questions from the exam to a website, asking for answers from other users. The student admitted that they had posted a question but said they didn’t look at the answers. They said they had some difficult personal circumstances at the time that had affected their judgment.

The provider decided that the student had cheated and excluded them from the programme. The student appealed but their appeal was rejected.

The student complained to us.

We did not uphold the student’s complaint (we found it “Not Justified”).

We concluded that the provider had correctly followed its academic misconduct procedures. The student was given a fair opportunity to respond and to explain their difficult personal circumstances and the impact of those circumstances. The provider’s regulations said that contract cheating was commissioning someone to do a piece of work with the intention of submitting it as if it were the student’s own work. We decided it was reasonable for the provider to conclude that the student’s actions in posting the question during their exam was contract cheating, even if the student later decided not to use the answers they had commissioned. The student had said that they had posted the question because they were concerned about failing the exam, which indicated that they intended to use the answers at the time. The provider had given students information about contract cheating and the potentially very serious consequences of cheating, and the student was aware that using the website during an exam was not allowed. We felt that the penalty that the provider applied was on the severe side, but the penalty for contract cheating was set out in the published procedures and the provider had made it clear that it considered contract cheating to be the most serious type of misconduct listed in its academic misconduct procedures. The provider had explained that by posting the question the student had undermined the integrity of and security of the provider’s assessments and could have helped other students to gain an unfair advantage. The student’s personal circumstances had been taken into account by the provider but did not indicate that their judgment had been impaired at the time.